Nuclear monitor confirms Iran exceeding uranium enrichment cap

Nuclear monitor confirms Iran exceeding uranium enrichment cap
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The international agency that monitors Iran’s compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal confirmed Monday that Tehran has exceeded the agreement’s uranium enrichment level.

“Director General Yukiya Amano has informed the IAEA Board of Governors that Agency inspectors on 8 July verified that Iran is enriching uranium above 3.67% U-235,” the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement.

The statement did not say to what purity level Iran is now enriching uranium. But earlier Monday, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency told the semi-official ISNA news agency his country has “surpassed the 4.5 percent” enrichment level.

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The confirmation also follows Iran’s Sunday announcement that it was moving forward with increasing its uranium enrichment, as it had threatened to do.

The move is Tehran’s second major breach in as many weeks of the 2015 nuclear agreement, which placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran. The accord was co-signed by France, Germany, England, Russia and China.

Trump on Sunday warned Iran to “be careful.”

“Iran better be careful because you enrich for one reason, and I won’t tell you what that reason is, but it’s no good,” Trump said. “They better be careful.”

Last week, Iran announced and the IAEA confirmed that Tehran had stockpiled more than the 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium the deal allows.

The agreement also sets a 3.67 percent enrichment level, enough to fuel a power plant but far from weapons-grade.

The 4.5 percent referenced by Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization is also still well below the 90 percent enrichment level that is considered weapons-grade. But increasing uranium enrichment levels is still seen as a more serious breach than the stockpiling, as it gets Iran closer to a nuclear weapon.

Iran on Monday also threatened to take further steps in 60 days, including possibly restarting centrifuges that were dismantled under the nuclear deal or enriching uranium to 20 percent.

Once Iran reaches 20 percent, it would take much less time to reach 90 percent enrichment.

The step-by-step approach to breaching the nuclear agreement is designed to up pressure on Europe to deliver Iran benefits from the deal in the face of U.S. sanctions.

On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif described the enrichment move as the “second round of remedial steps” Tehran is taking in its dispute with Europe.

“All such steps are reversible only through E3 compliance,” he tweeted, referring to France, Germany and England.

On Monday, Zarif added that there “won’t be a better deal” than the 2015 one, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“#B_Team sold @realDonaldTrump on the folly that killing #JCPOA thru #EconomicTerrorism can get him a better deal,” Zarif tweeted. Zarif uses “B Team” to refer to national security advisor John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonTrump confirms he authorized Rand Paul to negotiate with Iran Trump: 'No doubt' US shot down Iranian drone The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

“As it becomes increasingly clear that there won’t be a better deal, they're bizarrely urging Iran's full compliance,” Zarif added. “There's a way out, but not with #B_Team in charge.”